County Commission chair sees restoration of civility in election results
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission, which is in recent years has captured headlines because of continuing conflicts between commissioners, including the ouster of its chairman and continuing public disputes, is on the verge of becoming a more congenial place to do business.
That's the view of Commissioner David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), who chairs the three-member commission, who said he believes that victories in Tuesday's Republican primaries by fellow commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) and former Belknap County Finance Director Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) will create a unified team which will work together "in a productive and civil manner, placing policy above personality."
Taylor defeated Jonathan Smolin of Alton 2,035 to 591 in the District 3 commission race for a two-year term and Waring defeated incumbent Belknap County Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) 1,078 to 678 for a four-year term.
DeVoy had supported both Taylor and Waring while Burchell and Smolin, who had support from several members of the County Delegation, including Rep. George Hurt (R-Gilford) and Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), had expressed support for each other.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Taylor said "In our decision making, Dave DeVoy and I have always tried to be guided by the best interests of the people of our county. Yesterday's vote says that our efforts have been well received. I want to thank the voters of the 2nd and 3rd Districts for the wonderful support we have going forward as we continue our efforts, as always subject to fiscal responsibility limitations, to make our county government even better and more responsive to the needs of the citizens of Belknap County. We now have a team that can work together and when we disagree, do so with civility."
Waring said that he is pleased by the response to his candidacy by the voters who saw his experience in county government, where he served as finance director from 2011 to 2015, as a plus. He said he is looking forward to working in a professional and collaborative manner with his colleagues, provided that he is successful in November's general election, where he faces opposition from Democrat Cherie Willoughby of Belmont.
He defeated Burchell 243-185 in Gilmanton, 201-180 in Barnstead, 182-126 in Tilton and 452-187 in Belmont.
Burchell became commissioner after defeating incumbent Commissioner John Thomas (R-Belmont) in the 2014 GOP primary 808-671 and winning an uncontested general election.
After Burchell was elected to the county commission, Commissioner Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith) resigned his seat, saying he was unable to work with the new commissioners, leaving only Burchell and DeVoy, both of whom were newly elected. Burchell became chairman, but when the county delegation appointed Taylor to fill the vacant seat, he soon found himself a minority of one. At a clamorous meeting in March 2015, Burchell was ousted as chairman by a two-to-one vote, which he challenged without success in Superior Court.
The relationship between the three current commissioners continued to remain stormy. At a June 4 meeting last year, commissioners Taylor and DeVoy censured Burchell for leaking information from a nonpublic meeting to former Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Matthew Logue, held while Burchell was still chairman .
DeVoy and Taylor again censured Burchell in May of this year for what they said was official misconduct in connection with his attempts to access protected medical records in the state Department of Health and Human Services database. Burchell maintained he was only seeking the information in order to find out how state reimbursements to county homes are determined.
Smolin, a surgical assistant at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, had campaigned by saying that he would bring significant private business experience to the commission and was concerned about keeping the services provided by county government affordable.
In recent weeks Smolin's business experience claims were disputed by Taylor, who cited several bankruptcies which Smolin had filed, as evidence that Smolin lacked the background to oversee county policy and budget matters.
Taylor defeated Smolin 139-31 in Center Harbor, 500-153 in Alton, 708-217 in Meredith and 688-190 in Gilford.
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